This Day (Lagos)

17 November 2012

Nigeria: Oil Is Country's Problem, Says Zamfara Governor

interview

Despite the fact that Zamfara state was where full implementation of Sharia legal system took its inspiration in the north under former governor Sani Yerima, the state has remained relatively calm from the Boko Haram insurgency. The ANPP governor, and former parliamentarian, Alhaji Abdullaziz Yari, in the interview with Ike Abonyi and Senator Iroegbu, explains why? he also spoke on other topical national issues including the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)

What are the highlights of your administration for the past one-year as well as the the major focus of your administration and measures put in place to achieve your goals?

Last time around I was a Honourable Member of the House of Representatives. But today by God's grace I am the Governor of the state. So I can experience the great difference between being in parliament and now the executive who directs and redirect. When I got into the state administration, I actually found so many things that were entirely different from the kind of system I knew and were conversant with as a legislature where we share ideas and encountered challenges, left, right, and centre. As a legislature we debate, agree and disagree, come to a conclusion and pass a motion or bill.

Here you are the manager, you are the one to manage, you are the one to direct, you are the one to take the last decision and what have you. So, in the state I met a lot of things; though before I went I have my vision of what I set out to achieve. And I quickly planned how I would move, and how to manage the state because I realised in management; if you are not careful, you will do worse than the people who have been there before.

So the first issue is finance; realising that the finances are meagre and they are not available. Our IGR (Internally Generated Revenue) is low; we solely depend on what comes from Abuja, which is over 80 per cent. So somebody has to take position; how he is going to manage the funds properly, how he is going to channel the fund properly and how he is going to hold and disburse the funds carefully. So I actually came up with an idea that one; we need to know that the funds are scarce and are not much, and there are many needs left to attend. Need for development, socio-economic development and what have you, all of them in the queue waiting for funding. In that regards, someone has to borrow extra talent, extra brain and get experts close to you how this could be achieved.

So I decided to keep calm and state how I am going to approach this matter, I came with my own intention. I met so many things on ground that I couldn't close my eyes to and just leave them to perish like that because government has done so many investments and some of them are intended for the good of the people of Zamfara State besides the fact that it is not my administration that initiated it. However, I learnt that the past administration sank a lot of funds, so there is no how I can neglect the investments that have reached 70 per cent, and it's just for me to put 30 per cent and complete it for the benefit of the Zamfara people. There are so many things I met on the queue that needs some urgent attention, some in need of proper planning and management. So God willing we are moving where we are today and believe that majority of the people is happy with what we are doing.

What are the major challenges you faced while striving to meet your goals and targets?

The biggest challenge is funding, what we want to do is to show a difference between now and what happened in the past. I know that the administration suffered so many things, because the first civilian governor of the state, Sani Yerima came with so many plans, but the resources were meagre so it could not be achieved, most especially when he took over from the military. There is also the issue of poverty, no infrastructure, nothing. So I met a lot of these challenges and wants to address all them but it was not possible.

So the second one (Shinkafi) that came, he came with his zeal as well but along the way he was distracted, maybe by one reason or the other. He came with a passion to do so many projects but what I can only understand there was no proper planning, and whatever you are going to achieve if you don't plan it, it won't go anywhere.

So that is why when I came in with my vision, my first challenge was lack of resources, and as well to try as much as I can to convince my friends that we boarded the same aircraft to know that I am the pilot and I cannot land when the weather is not clear. For them to understand where I am heading to is another challenge. But I tried my best; I believe one day they will get to know where I am heading to and God willing, they will begin to realise that despite the fact that we have a little resources, we could understand where we are heading to. You could understand where they are heading, and are trying to copy because in the past administration as a commissioner a lot of people acquired a lot of wealth, so why should their own not be the same. You understand my point. So, I have that kind of challenge.

Some other politicians that enjoyed themselves in the past are still thinking that it is going to be business as usual. So I told them no we made promise to our people and today we are different because of the confidence reposed in us by the electorate. We must deliver. There is no excuse for whatsoever reason not to deliver; we must do our best to deliver. We made so many promises and we have to take those promises line-by-line, clause-by-clause, and paragraph-by-paragraph to ensure that we adopt them as we promised. So the challenge for my people is to understand where my policy is heading and also the issue of scarce resources.

Since you have talked about meagre IGR; what are your efforts to improve and diversify your state's IGR rather than depending solely on federal allocations?

You see Nigerian laws today are not helping the economy. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not favourable. If not Lagos, and oil producing states; let me tell you, the entire states in the country cannot tell you that they can solely depend on their IGR, name any other state because of the existing laws. Some are trying. Last week we summoned the Chairman of Internal Revenue of Zamfara State, to ask him that some people are complaining that he is taking five per cent of what is generated (VAT), and what we realised is payees money, and that is where we pay salaries and other expenses.

What they are we getting from the real IGR is low and where it is taken from is 7-5 per cent of the population. Even in the global practice most of the people are not paying tax only very few rich, the extremely rich that can pay. When you see a company that pays N20 billion, you will realise by counting the number of staff they have. So it is from there they sit down and do their annual general meeting come out with something different.

It is not for the state, most of them for the national. But now it is stated that in one industry; a textile company according to what they have as at that time and today, we are supposed to be earning at least N70 million from that textile alone and today nobody is even cleaning there. It is closed so definitely there is no how that with this entire production dearth that we can get anything. Until when the people produce before they can pay their taxes.

Our system is not working very well, for instance if I go to United Kingdom (UK) and buy a bottle of coke, I must pay 1.7pence as tax, some 0.7pence, some one pence on a bottle of coke. So if you assume that in Zamfara State alone in a day we drink 100,000 bottles of coke, at least we estimated that each and every day from the coke forget about the fanta and the sprite we will get N1 million on daily basis as tax if the system is working. But the system is not working.

Each and everything you consume in a developing world is taxed. But not oil, not even agriculture but paying your tax, what you get, and all those kind of things that are produced and sold they there is no how that we cannot get enough on our IGR in our respective states.

As I said, apart from Lagos and the oil producing states, no one can say today that if we do not come to Abuja (to collect allocations) we would be able to run smoothly and pay salaries and all that. So we are trying our best to see how we can do it through so many ways. But as I said our problem are Nigerian laws that would not allow us to go deeper. For instance as we are sourcing for resources and we are capable of managing how we are going to get this thing out, but the law is something that is giving us a headache.

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